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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (August 7, 2002 - Radio New Zealand International)---The Marshall Islands says it may appeal directly to the U.S. Congress if difficulties over agreeing to new Compact of Free Association provisions can’t be resolved.

The chief Marshalls compact negotiator, Robert Muller, says the two sides are not too far apart on the money required for base grants and the new trust fund.

And, he says an agreement has been reached on retaining Federal postal services -- but not on Federal disaster assistance programs.

Mr. Muller says the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is attempting to transfer responsibility for disasters to U.S. AID, which only offers limited relief.

"We think that the U.S. might reconsider their position on cutting back, especially the federal rehabilitation or disaster assistance program. If not, then we will probably oppose it to Congress directly, to help us in this regard."

Mr. Muller says the Marshall Islands is now asking for 36.6 million U.S. dollars annually in base grants over 20 years while the U.S. is offering 33.9 million.

And, he says they’ve requested 11 million dollars a year for the trust fund but the U.S. has offered 7 million.

Guaranteed U.S. funding for the Marshall Islands under the present Compact of Free Association expires next year.

For additional reports from Radio New Zealand International, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio New Zealand International.

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